Typeface Review

BC Brief

Reviewed by Benedikt Bramböck on October 18, 2018

The most efficient way to get from one point to another is typically via a straight line. The quickest route is not necessarily the most interesting one, though. Luckily, pragmatism and speed are not everyone’s main aspirations. Case in point: BC Brief by Czech designer Matyáš Machat. It effortlessly abandons any direct, secure path in favor of the winding, scenic route.

In doing so, it brilliantly questions the paradigm of what we consider a minimal and simple typeface. Countering Jurriaan Schrofer and Wim Crouwel’s modernist idea of simplicity in experimental lettershapes, Machat’s main objective is articulated around the bare minimum defining a shape in two-dimensional space: two points. Between these reference marks, Brief’s glyph shapes are constructed out of meandering contours that sometimes curve back on themselves. Countershapes are entirely dropped and standard shape constructions are discarded, turning even typically straightforward letters like E, k, and w into haywire abstractions.

While the four Outline styles celebrate complexity, the Full style in part conceals this wackiness, comfortably positioning the family somewhere between Ray Eames’ Cover Numerals, Tobias Frere-Jones’ Sum of the Parts, and Roger Excoffon’s Calypso, with undertones of inter- and extrapolation errors. Overall, Machat’s design is a gutsy, experimental typeface. Considering this, the — in true Briefcase tradition — comprehensive character set coverage of the fonts is particularly noteworthy.

As for the latest thing in type technology, there’s a bit of bad news for the variable-font enthusiasts out there: because every glyph has an identical construction, it would theoretically (and technically) be possible to interpolate from one glyph to the next. But then again, a variable font with a character-set axis is probably not going to make BC Brief an even more daring typeface. After all, moving from one glyph to the next in a straight line would hardly be “keeping it Brief”.

Benedikt Bramböck is a type designer working in font technology, knowledge transfer, and workflow optimization. He received a MA in type design from Type and Media in The Hague and worked for Fontshop International and Alphabet Type. From 2015 to 2020, he was part of the team behind Typostammtisch Berlin.

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